One of my favorite Easter stories comes from that great theologian, Lewis Grizzard. Since it is, in fact, Easter, I thought I would share it. You may have been lucky enough to have heard Lewis tell it — either in person or on one of his albums. Since he has been gone 17 years now and since he stole the story from someone else, I don’t mind retelling it.
It seems a guy went into a place and asked for an R.C. and a Moon Pie. The proprietor said to him. “Where are you from? Alabama?”
The guy was offended by the remark and said so. “Why do you assume I am from Alabama because I ordered a Moon Pie and an R.C.? If I had asked for a sausage would you have assumed that I was from Poland?”
Perplexed, the proprietor said, “Well, I don’t know. That’s never happened.”
The irate customer continued. “If I had asked for a potato would you have asked me if I was from Ireland? If I had asked for perfume would you have asked me if I was from France? If I had asked for a glass of vodka would you have asked me if I was from Russia?”
“I don’t know,” the clerk replied. “Like I said, it’s never come up.”
“Why then,” said the first guy, “when I asked for an R.C. Cola and a Moon Pie did you ask me I was from Alabama?”
“Because this is a hardware store,” was the reply.
It’s Easter, and I realize that our observation of the holiday, like everything else, has changed. Back in the day it was a big deal to go shopping for that perfect Easter outfit — especially for the ladies. I would get a new outfit, too — and I mean from head to toe. I would get a new hat and new shoes and everything in between — and those would be my “Sunday clothes” for the duration of the year — or at least until it turned off cold. And heaven forbid I hit a growth spurt and outgrew my Easter outfit in July or August. If I did, my toes would just have to ache for a couple of hours every Sunday.
Yes, I wore a hat to church when I was a kid. All the men did. Quite frankly, I have always looked pretty good in a hat, even if I do say so myself. I personally wish fedoras hadn’t gone out of style. My hats were of the white “faux straw” variety, but they were a big deal for women. “Put on your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it ... ” and all that sort of thing. I don’t mean to question my mother’s piety, or that of any of her friends, but I am pretty sure that the big attraction at church on Easter Sunday was to see which lady had the most stylish hat. After all, not many women from Porterdale ever got to attend the Kentucky Derby.
The Easter bunny always made an appearance and left a basket on the kitchen table filled with jelly beans and marshmallow eggs and maybe a chocolate Easter bunny and a toy — like a bolo paddle or a top. One year I got a Duncan yo-yo. I guess that hasn’t changed so much, but I bet the kids of today wouldn’t be impressed by a 49-cent balsa glider in their Easter basket. Or maybe they would.
We dyed eggs and had Easter egg hunts and posed for pictures — one of the rare days of the year that we could count on Mama pulling out the Kodak Brownie camera. And of course we went to church. We did that every Sunday, but the Easter service was special because we saw so many folks that we had not seen since Christmas. And after church there was a big dinner of ham and deviled eggs (We had to do something with all those hard-boiled eggs we dyed. Waste not; want not, after all.) and potato salad and green beans. That menu hasn’t changed one bit in my family over the years — and I know that some churches still have sunrise services.
So some of the traditions that surround Easter have changed while others remain constant — which brings me back to Grizzard’s story. You might be asking yourself what that little joke has to do with Easter. It is really quite simple. On the first Easter the angel asked the women who visited the empty tomb why they were seeking a living man among the dead?
See? They might as well have been looking for a Moon Pie and R.C. in a hardware store. And 2000 years later, the news is still the same. Christ is risen. Indeed.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at email@example.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.